Can Computer Games Save Us All? New Research Shows How Gaming Can Help Cure Our Social Ills
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TM: Their direction wasn’t merely, “Okay, write a book by 6am.” You structured the night with quests and levels, so that it wasn’t one big leap, it was a number of steps, correct?
JM: We had 100 classes, and each class was inspired by an object in the library. So for example, the handwritten Declaration of Independence. You had to go on this hunt to find the object. You find the object and we tell you cool things about it. Then that unlocks a writing quest. The quest unlocked in that case: make your own declaration. What would you want to stand up and declare as passionately as Thomas Jefferson declared all those years ago?
And then you had to get 56 people to sign it, just the way he had to get 56 people to sign the original declaration. That becomes one chapter in the book. When you have all 100 chapters, you’ve written a book. It’s called 100 Ways to Make History. It’s basically your best 100 ideas for what we should be doing to change the world, to make history, to reinvent the future. We help you write the book.
TM: Breaking things down into chunks of quests -- the same way that games do -- releases an enormous amount of creativity. Another real world example is the game you invented to help yourself when you suffered post-concussion syndrome.
That is actually the project I’m spending most of my time on now. It started more than a couple of years ago. I had a concussion that did not heal properly, and I was stuck in this post-concussion state where I couldn’t really read or write, I couldn’t be that physically active. I had horrible headaches and nausea, and was really depressed and anxious. And I was in the middle of writing my book.
I obviously had to stop writing it. I was really immersed in these ideas and I thought to myself, you know, this is probably the lowest I’ve ever been. I should really see if a game can get me out of this state, because everything that I’ve been looking at in my research says that games provoke positive emotions; games connect us with meaning and purpose; games help us be more resilient. I thought, surely if I could turn this into a game, I could survive it.
So I invented this kind of role-playing adventure game for myself. I originally called it Jane the Concussion Flyer, and I invited my friends and family to play with me. This was really important because I was having a hard time explaining to them just how severe the symptoms were, and how it was impacting my life. It was hard to get on the phone with somebody and say, “By the way I’m completely miserable and I want to die, can you help me?”
But I could say, “Hey, I’m going to play a game to heal my brain, and I have a special role for you to play in the game. Will you play with me?” That opened it up.
So this game involved my friends and family giving me quests to go on -- something as simple as, instead of lying in bed all day, why don’t you sit by the window all day and at least enjoy the view?
Any quest or task took me out of where I was, and they started checking in on me every day to see how I was doing with my quests. And this gave me achievements and help me stay positive.